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2002, Part 2

Really, You Can Buy EMOC!

Monday, 1 July 2002

Okay, here's the deal: when Eric Meyer on CSS arrived at the New Riders warehouse, it apparently wasn't a full shipment. This led to the book being taken off the "coming soon" list without actually landing on the "available now" list. I guess it landed on the "incomplete shipment" list, and the New Riders Web site took that to mean "no longer available." Or something. Either way, the book is now available for order from the New Riders Web site! Let the bells ring out in celebration!

As for Amazon, Borders, etc., the Web sites still claim the book will be published on 15 August 2002. Not true: it's already been published. Somehow the data feed got polluted. In fact, the book should be available for shipping somewhere around 9 July, as the Barnes & Noble site correctly states (or did when I wrote this). So feel free to pre-order! You won't have to wait six weeks, but more like one or two.

And the book really is gorgeous. I keep flipping it open to random points just to admire its design. This means that I have to get moving on an update of the companion Web site. Soon to come: project files for all 13 projects, bonus material that was cut from the theatrical release, and more!

On Freedom

Thursday, 4 July 2002

The advent of Independence Day (U.S.) caused me to reflect on freedom and what it means, and I was going to say a few things about that when I started thinking about the recent court rulings on the Pledge of Allegiance and school vouchers, and that took me in a whole new direction... one that went on for a while. So I turned it into its own short essay. Take it for whatever it's worth to you. Finally, proof that on occasion I do think about stuff other than CSS!

Yeah, My Trust is Soaring

Tuesday, 9 July 2002

"With strict enforcement and higher ethical standards, we must usher in a new era of integrity in Corporate America... In the end, there is no capitalism without conscience, no wealth without character," says the President. Right. So why did it take a court order to see the list of people with whom Vice President Richard Cheney consulted on energy policies last year, and when do we actually get to see it anyway? The White House is still claiming executive privilege and appealing these court decisions, rather like the Nixon administration did in regard to Watergate-related files.

Still, it sounds good, doesn't it? "No capitalism without conscience" does have a certain ring to it. Maybe similar rhetorical devices should be used in the struggle to make standards a priority, in spite of lazy Webmasters. "No sites without standards, no Web without validation." Hmmm... needs work.

Project 4 Now Online

Wednesday, 10 July 2002

Over the weekend, InformIT published the primary text of Project 4 of my latest book as an article (registration is required to read it). The article elicited a few reader responses, including this one, which I absolutely love:

Great article. This article presents some new things about CSS that I didnt know. It also uses a very practical example which helps grasp the material. I have never heard of Eric Meyer before. From the detail and attention shown in this article, I expect to hear his name more.

Wow, tough room. No matter. It's always nice to be regarded as an up-and-comer!

The Scrooged Prophecies

Friday, 19 July 2002

Happy anniversary to us. If you like, you can work out the anniversary number from the text of our honeymoon journal.

Ser Zeldman did me the great favor of publishing a glowing note regarding my latest book, which adds to his already incredible favor of writing a truly wonderful Foreword for the same book. Thanks, Jeffrey.

I don't know how many of your remember the 1988 movie Scrooged (one of my favorite holiday movies, by the way, despite the fact that much of the primary cast and the director inexplicably wishes it had never happened) but it turns out to have been disturbingly prophetic.

Back In Cleveland

Friday, 26 July 2002

We just got back from Seattle, where I delivered a well-received keynote address at Web Design World and had a good time poking around the city with Kat in my few spare hours. At the conference, I got to catch up with some old friends, meet some folks for the first time, and life was generally cool. The weather was beautiful, actually; sunny and highs in the 80s and 90s. Apparently this constitutes a heat wave in Seattle, since all the weatherpersons were telling people to take it easy and drink a lot of fluids. We found this incredibly funny. Well, I'm sure they think our winters are deadly cold, too.

Eric Meyer on CSS is starting to get reviews, and they're good ones. Check out the book's companion Web site for details and links. I think my favorite review line so far is this: "As you're reading the book, you get the feeling Meyer isn't fighting the medium, he's working with it in almost a Zen-like way."

Web Design World Keynote Available

Monday, 29 July 2002

The HTML-based slides from last week's keynote address at Web Design World are now available on my "Speaking" page; note that these slides will only work well in a CSS2 positioning-savvy browser. Gecko-based browsers and IE/Win both qualify, and IE5/Mac does not in this case. Other browsers weren't (and won't be) checked, although I suspect Opera won't deal well with my styles either. Also, given the nature of this presenation, the styles pretty much assume a 1024-by-768 display with the browser window maximized. After all, that was the projection environment in which I was working. If the text comes out too big and your browser lets you resize pixel-based text, then go for it. If it doesn't, sorry. You could always use a browser that does.

While I was at it, I put up links to the talks I delivered in May and June of this year; these slides are best viewed in Opera 6 for Windows in "OperaShow" mode (hit F11). But you can read the content in any browser, all the way back to Mosaic betas, with no real loss of information.

Maybe This Explains Lassie

Wednesday, 31 July 2002

I've been saying for years that dogs are smarter than most people think, and cats far dumber than they're generally thought to be. It would seem there's scientific research to back me up on the first part of that claim. My theory is that people mistake a nearly total lack of comprehension for indifference in cats, and an eager friendliness for idiocy in dogs. The mere fact that dogs can almost without exception be trained to perform tasks, and cats generally can't, always indicated to me more intelligence in the canine species.

And before you all start e-mailing me about this smart cat you own or knew once, or about dumb-as-a-post dogs piddling on your shoes and refusing to be trained, I'll freely admit that both exist. Humans run the gamut of intelligence, so it should come as no surprise that other species have a similar range of cognitive abilities (or lack thereof). Similarly, don't bother telling me about how cats are so smart they ignore attempts to train them as being beneath their dignity, because I don't buy it. I've known too many cats.

Write a Haiku, Win a Book

Thursday, 1 August 2002

In one of those surreal turns that really makes life worth living, I spotted a link (on zeldman.com) to a contest at Consolation Champs where the winning haiku gets a free copy of Eric Meyer on CSS. I love haiku; it's probably my favorite poetic form and about the only one in which I ever intentionally set out to compose verse. Some of the entries are funny, others elegant, still others sublime... and I was very amused by the entry that says, in effect, "CSS is inferior to HTML-based design." Check it out!

With everything else going on, it's nice to know that life still retains its capacity to surprise and delight. It can be all too easy to forget that simple but important truth.

css-discuss Public Archive Announced

Monday, 12 August 2002

The very active mailing list I chaperone, css-discuss, has always had an archive. However, it was only open to list members so that spammers couldn't harvest the members' e-mail addresses, it wasn't searchable even for members, and it had some stupid display problems that were beyond our control. I always felt a little embarrassed about sending list members to the archives, but it was all we had.

Well, good news, CSS fans. List member Simon Willison has put together a very slick public archive of the list where e-mail addresses aren't exposed, and the incredible depth and breadth of content the list represents is now available to non-members and Google alike. The archive is even searchable using Boolean terms, so you could run a query to get every post Mark Newhouse has ever made to the list where he mentions floated elements. For example.

This is an amazing resource, the collected discussion and experience of 2100+ list members now available to the world. Simon (and his company, Incutio, which is generously hosting said resource and developed the archiving software that drives it) deserve hugs, hosannas, and high praise to the heavens for putting in the effort to make this a reality. Spread the word.

Speaking of words to be spread, here's another: DevEdge just got a makeover and a new address. The legacy site will live where it always did, at developer.netscape.com. The address devedge.netscape.com will point to the new site, which was laid out and styled by yours truly. The new site is where we've concentrated all of our cross-browser information and work, including scripts and tools you can use today. Check it out!

The Truth At Last!

Wednesday, 14 August 2002

I knew I shouldn't have gone to work for a Netscape group that interfaces so directly with the Mozilla crew—those guys are sharp. Sooner or later, they were bound to figure out my secret. I suppose I may as well confess it all now.

A few years back, I realized that while I was making good progress toward total domination of the CSS space (thanks to some judicious "retirements" of my competitors), something more was required. There needed to be a rallying personality for all standards, not just CSS, and unfortunately my name was already too well associated with CSS. A whole new persona was required—a figurehead, if you will.

So I invented Jeffrey Zeldman, whom I've always thought of as the imaginary friend I never had. Sure, zeldman.com says it's been online since 1995, but how do you know that for sure? You don't. A little Wayback hacking and is all it takes to create a false Web history, specifically from 1996 through 1998, when the site actually went live.

Eventually, though, both "Zeldman" and I were getting invited to the same events. I was facing a very awkward situation, because obviously Clark Kent and Superman can't both be in the room at the same time. So whenever I need "Zeldman" to appear, I use a NYC-area stand-up comic and character actor whose real name is Moishe Applebaum. He's actually picked up a lot of this Web stuff in the course of playing the role, and makes a little extra money on the side doing sites for small non-profits. His stand-up routine is really funny, too; catch it some time when you're in the Village. I think he still has a couple more dates this month.

Fun trivia facts:

  • I came up with the name "Zeldman" because I'd just finished reading The Prisoner of Zenda and The Invisible Man. Somehow the two mutated into "Zeldman."
  • The "Jeffrey" part is actually a riff on Jeff Veen's first name. I thought at the time that it would be funny to have two experts with the same name. Of course, when Eric Costello came along the joke was on me, but that's okay.
  • The incredibly different color schemes historically used on meyerweb.com and zeldman.com was sort of an in-joke, in addition to being a simple way to make the two personas seem more distinct.
  • My wife Kat is in fact a real person, and so is Carrie. She's Moishe's girlfriend, not mine, so get your minds out of the gutter. You're blocking my periscope.

The next time "Zeldman" and I are supposed to appear at the same time is an upcoming Web Design World this November. I'll probably keep the illusion going; I'd hate to call it off after all these years. Still, you never know what could happen now that the word's out...

Let It Go, People

Tuesday, 20 August 2002

I hope everyone enjoyed the "Eric Meyer made up Jeffrey Zeldman" thing. I'm still sort of amazed by it all, and Kat and I have gotten more than a few chuckles out of it. I freely admit that I don't have the creativity to come up with Jeff—he's far too unique and interesting a guy to be my invention.

So Netscape 4.8 was released. The howls of protest began immediately; I noticed disparaging comments from Zeldman (who was pretty funny about it, of course), Shirley, and Meryl, among others who I can't recall at the moment, not to mention a mercifully short thread on css-discuss. Apparently this release is the worst thing to happen to the Web in memory, or something like that.

To which I say: could we all please calm the %#@$#! down? As I've tried to explain several times, updates to Netscape 4.x are driven by security patches. Period. End of story. The rendering engine does not change, so it's not like there are new bugs to worry about there. These updates are required by support contracts between Netscape and enterprise users. I suppose Netscape could just abandon the product line and leave enterprise customers open to future security exploits, rather like some other companies that spring to mind. Yeah, that sounds like a swell idea.

To get back to my original point: the louder people howl about new a NN4.x release, the higher its visibility, and so the more people will actually download it. See where I'm going with this one? If people would just ignore the NN4.x releases, there would be fewer NN4.x installs in the world. Users would instead find another, more current browser. Everybody wins. How hard is that?

Sometimes I'm astonished by the human drive to stir up controversy where none need exist, not to mention the ever greater drive to complain at length about trivial things. Sort of like I'm doing right now, in fact...

Inaccessible Accessiblity Information

Wednesday, 21 August 2002

Remember the flap, back in April, when the Section 508 site's markup didn't validate? Guess what: it still doesn't, but that's not what I'm here to talk about. I just found, thanks to a co-worker, a story almost as good. It involves Microsoft's Accessibility page. Think it's accessible, let alone legible in anything other than Explorer? Hah!

Given my employer, I thought about taking a pass, but you know what? To heck with it. I'd be taking Microsoft to task over this if I worked for myself, so I'm going to do it now. So here's the deal: go to the page using a Gecko-based browser like Mozilla. Or use Opera, which has its own display problems, but which aren't the ones I'm about to describe. A screenshot showing poorly styled links on Microsoft's Accessibility page. Okay, take a look at the links on the right side of the page. Nice. Even someone with my eyesight can't read that text without major squinting. I suppose there's a witty remark to be made about forcing the user to squint at a link to a page on "Visual Impairments," but in a rare display of moderate taste, I'm not going to make it. Now look at the left rail. A few of the links, and all of the search area, are completely gone (you may have to compare the page in Explorer to see what I mean). They've been pushed out of the top of the left rail.

Are these display errors due to bugs in Gecko? No. They're due to sloppy authoring practices made possible by bugs in Explorer. To wit:

  • The teensy link text is due to the site's use of font-size: x-small for the table that encloses the links. IE thinks x-small is one "step" below the user's default font, when in fact it's two "steps." To give some rough approximations, IE thinks it's 80% normal whereas it should be 60% normal. (Those percentages are close to reality, but remember that CSS doesn't define how big or small the keywords should be.) Changing the value to small gets you a decent display in Gecko, but of course the text gets bigger in IE, which thinks that small is the same size as the user's text. As opposed to, say, medium, which is clearly defined to be the same size as unstyled text. Todd Fahrner has written about this topic far better than I ever could; see "Toward a standard font size interval system" and "Size Matters" for details and good advice.
  • The cut-off links and search area are due to stupid table tricks. The entire left rail is a single table cell with a bunch of stuff inside it—no great surprise there. But how does Microsoft try to get the content of the rail up against the top of the cell? By sticking in a table with a height of 100% below the rest of the cell's contents. IE assumes that if an element is too tall, then it should be resized. Gecko, on the other hand, properly calculates the height of this table to be equal to the height of the entire left rail. So you have a table as tall as the whole rail, and then more content above it, and all of it is vertically centered in the rail... which means the visible content gets pushed out of the cell. The fix? What most any Web designer would have done in the first place: add valign="top" to the rail's cell.

In addition, the page's markup comes nowhere close to validating (of course!) and is composed of so many convoluted, nested tables, spacer GIFs, and font tags that I shudder to contemplate what a screen reader, or a text-mode browser, might end up displaying.

It's not like these particular authoring errors were difficult to spot, or even to fix. Tracking down the source of the problems and fixing them took me about 20 minutes, tops. I think I've spent more time writing and editing this rant than I did on the diagnosis and testing of the fixes described above. Of course, there are doubtless other problems on the page, but if so they weren't immediately obvious—and as much as I'd love to spend my days fixing obvious authoring mistakes for other people, I only have 50 or 60 more years to live. I hate to start a project when I know I can't finish it.

What is it about accessibility sites that brings out the absolute worst in the Web and its authors?

Greek Gaming Gaffe

Tuesday, 3 September 2002

I'm sure I'll be one of about six hundred thousand people making this particular observation, but here we go anyway: electronic games are now illegal in Greece. Have been ever since the end of July, in fact. If I show up in Greece with my cell phone, which has a few games built in and which I can't remove, I could face a year of jail time and up to a 75,000 euro fine. I suppose the fact that people can be just as deeply stupid the world over as here in America should be in some way comforting, but instead I find myself deeply frightened.

Measuring a Year

Wednesday, 11 September 2002, 1219 PDT

Exactly one year ago, I posted an entry with exactly two words: "My God."

I was then, as I am today, over 2100 miles from home, sitting in a building on the Netscape campus. The distance has its time effects as well, of course. When Kat and I were awakened that morning, the towers were already down. We were very lucky, really, back on that horrible day—we were together even though far from home, and everyone we knew who could have perished in New York did not.

In the intervening 365 days, we have learned that someone very close to us is terminally ill, that others are still suffering from what they saw a year ago, met new friends and heard from old ones, traveled more than we probably should have, worried about the government, been denied the chance to know someone who would have been everything to us, made agonizing choices, been through job changes and home repair, tried to understand and respect each other, and held each other as we tried to shut out the world for a few minutes of grief or joy at a time.

Life continues to move onward, and as much as we would sometimes like to stop, we keep moving with it.

Scott, Spam, and Severe Drift

Monday, 16 September 2002

A very nice redesign has appeared over at scottandrew.com. Scott didn't mention anything about it when we had lunch last Wednesday, so I'll have to berate him for that later. I'm always envious of people who come up with beautiful, coherent Web designs in the XHTML+CSS space, and Scott's definitely joined that list. My one potential quibble is the order of his source, with the page content coming after the entire sidebar instead of before, but since this site does the same thing I don't suppose I should complain too much.

Today I got what might be my very first anti-porn spam, from "Fathers Against Porn," and I got it twice. I thought for a moment about going to download some porn in protest, but decided maybe I'd be better off just deleting both messages with a muttered curse at spamming morality cops and calling it even.

Today I also spotted one of the most severe cases of topic drift I've ever seen. The subject line in question: "Redirection of the root folder and children (was Re: 9/11 Moment of Silence?)" Wow.

Redesigns and Rebounding Praise

Thursday, 19 September 2002

It turns out that my praise for Scott's recent redesign was unintentionally self-serving: he's said that some of ideas were inspired by this page. In the interests of credit being given where it's due, I should point out that the idea of making h2 elements inline was not taken from this site. The dates here do use that trick, but they've only done so since Sunday. Scott came up with that himself. I set up the inline-heading trick for this site last week and pushed it this past weekend, coincidentally the same day Scott changed his design.

Speaking of redesigns, CNN has changed their site design. It's... interesting. Kind of K10K. Needlessly overwhelming, in my opinion, but then I thought the last redesign was a mistake and then got used to it very quickly. I'll probably get used to this one too.

There are even more interesting redesigns looming on the horizon, however. I wish I could talk about them here, but I can't yet. Soon, very soon...

KPMG.com Fall Down, Go Boom

Saturday, 21 September 2002

Life is so damned ironic sometimes I have to pause in wonder. While taking a break from doing technical review on a book exhorting standards-based site design, I spotted on Zeldman (and he spotted it at Supafamous) a note that KPMG's Web site (as well as its Canadian counterpart) completely shatters in Mozilla, Netscape 6+, and basically any other non-IE browser. (Unless it's Opera, in which case the Canada site doesn't even let you in at all.)

Why does this happen? Bad browser sniffing. Somewhere on KPMG's server(s), a script looks at the user agent string of the browser asking for a page. For Gecko-based browsers like Mozilla et.al., this script decides that it's dealing with Netscape 4.x, and so hands over a script that's tuned for said browsers. An tiny little excerpt:

if (tar == 'A') {
  document.layers['search_form'].document.forms['searchFormA'].submit();
} else {
  document.layers['search_nav'].document.forms['searchFormB'].submit();	
}

There's plenty of other broken stuff, like dynamically writing out layer elements and setting the visibility of said layers to hide, instead of the correct value, hidden.

This is a perfect example of why browser sniffing is nearly always a terrible idea: failure is never more than an unrecognized (or misidentified) browser away. I've taken a look at the page in Explorer, and I'm pretty sure the page can be rendered the way they want it in Gecko-based browsers. The question is this: should I invest the personal time and energy to offer them, for free, what Razorfish probably charged them a very large sum of money to not deliver?

In the end, thanks to my annoyingly ingrained sense of community good, I probably will. I'll let you know how it turns out. In the meantime, I have to get back to that technical review.

It's Like KPMG.com, Except It Works

Sunday, 22 September 2002

In the course of about two and a half hours yesterday afternoon, I hacked together a fixed version of KPMG.com. It works consistently in Gecko-based browsers and Internet Explorer for both Macintosh and Windows (at least in IE5.5/Win, which is what I have). This despite the fact that my version does no browser sniffing at all: the same scripts are handed to whatever browser comes to visit. I would have posted all this yesterday, except KPMG's Web site (from which I pull all the images) went offline yesterday afternoon, just as I uploaded my fixed version. Weird.

My fix is not, I should point out, a full makeover into total standards-compliant code and markup. I left the poorly structured HTML more or less alone, save for the minimal changes I had to make to get the page cross-browser savvy, like converting name attributes to id attributes. Similarly, I touched only those pieces of the Javascript that needed to be changed. And I didn't try to make the DHTML effects more efficient, or speed them up for Gecko, whose dynamic performance still lags behind Explorer. Thus in Gecko-based browsers the effects will seem sluggish. Nevertheless, they do work and the page does lay out correctly in the Explorer and Gecko families, which is a heck of a lot more than we can say for the actual site. I don't know about other browsers because, in all honesty, I was only willing to sink so much time into a non-paying project.

As I say, this took me about 150 minutes to accomplish, and it would have been less if I hadn't had to research DOM-compliant event handling (thank to kirun for hooking me up with the answer!). Remember, I'm a CSS guru, not a DOM and Javascript expert, so it took me longer to figure everything out. A full makeover to a no-font, minimal-table, optimized, and fully DOM-based script version would have taken a couple of days, most likely. Add another day to make the way the page is put together rational, since right now the way the script routines fit together is a little frightening. And there are other problems with the site, like serving CSS files with the MIME type application/x-pointplus, but those seem like incidentals. Correction: kpmg.com's CSS files are in fact served up as text/css; it's kpmg.ca's CSS files that are the wrong MIME type. My apologies to the server adminsitrator(s) at kpmg.com for my incorrect assertion.

In total, a complete makeover lasting three days would still be—even at top-drawer consultancy rates—around US$6000. Compared to what the site probably cost to develop badly, that's an amazing bargain. If even one customer using, oh, let's say AOL for OS X, was able to browse the site and decided to sign a contract with KPMG, the work would more than pay for itself.

Oh, and I almost forgot: KPMG.com has been broken for well over a year now, as detailed in Bugzilla entry 83846. We know from that entry that KPMG got e-mail about the problem on 10 July 2001.

With any luck, they'll take the work I've done and use it, seeing how as I've written them and offered it at no charge. Feel free to add your own voice to the process; you could even use the contact form on the fixed version, and if you're using a Gecko browser, you'll have to since the actual KPMG site is, you know, broken in your browser. If they're afraid of what it might do in Explorer, they could still use their server-side sniffing to give any Gecko agent the fixed version (DevEdge has a good article on Gecko detection). Of course, I think they should just offer up a standards-based site as the default, but hey, I'm only one guy. No doubt a large corporation that couldn't fix its own site problems knows far better than I do. Hmmm... was that too bitter?

KPMG Revisited

Monday, 23 September 2002

A point of followup on the KPMG fix: It turns out that the fix works almost completely in Opera 6/Win, even when it identifies itself as Opera (as my copy does). The little yellow-box navbar thing zips along quite speedily, but the drop-downs for "Search," "Contact Us," and "Country Selector" can be really slow, while other times very zippy. Also, one of the "close dropdown" buttons doesn't work. I don't know why, but I suspect these are easy to fix.

Here's the kicker: I didn't do any Opera testing until this afternoon. As I carried out my fixes, I didn't make one single coding change with Opera in mind, and yet the page is 95% fixed for that browser. That's the whole point of using standards—you can be almost completely browser agnostic. The other 5% that doesn't work in Opera is probably due to either a DOM bug in Opera—no browser is perfect—or (more likely) my fumbling attempts to get the code based on the W3C DOM wasn't a complete job, and I left some non-standards stuff in there.

Will it work in Konqueror? In OmniWeb? I don't know, but if they support the correct W3C standards, then the answer is "yes." It's the same answer for any browser that supports Web standards.

I'd also like to reiterate for those of you planning to dig into the source of the fix that it's not an example of completely standards compliant design. It's merely an example of how one person, with a modicum of effort, was able to take an outdated design method and hack in some semblance of standards support in order to take a broken site and make it work in multiple browsers. It isn't perfect, but maybe it's a start. Share and enjoy.

Say, That Is a Good Question

Wednesday, 25 September 2002

In the context of a heated debate over the prospect of going to war with Iraq and the politics surrounding that potential action, Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott (Rep. - Mississippi) has posed the question, "Who is the enemy here, the president of the United States or Saddam Hussein?"

It's an excellent question, but geez, if he has to ask, where does that leave the rest of us?

Futurespeak

Wednesday, 2 October 2002

I've added upcoming events to my Speaking page, so now all you stalkers can effectively plan ahead. These join the previously available archive of presentation files from past speaking engagements.

I'm working on some back-end improvements to the site, so there isn't much else to talk about right now. The political scene is too depressing to talk about now, so I'm not even going there. Maybe in a few days I'll have some cool things to ramble on about.

A Transformation In My Thinking

Friday, 4 October 2002

Recently, at the urging of a well-known Web dude, I added "permalinks" to the entries here. That's what the little paragraph symbols are all about. At that point, I figured that I ought to drop all of my past posts into some kind of system that could automatically generate said "permalinks," as well as allow me to finally publish an RSS feed.

Most people would say "I'll use Blogger!" or "time to install Moveable Type!" but I didn't really want to run a CMS package just to store and syndicate my random mutterings. So I of course did the obvious thing, and decided to pour the whole archive into XML, using my own private markup, and then teach myself XSLT so I could take that archive and produce whatever output I wanted—the home page's five most recent entries, the permalink archives, an RSS feed, whatever. Okay, there was an actual work-related reason: learning XSLT will make me better able to help manage DevEdge, which is driven by XML, XSLT, and CSS. But mostly I was doing my usual thing, and effectively learning how to fly a helicopter just to get to the corner grocery store.

So here it is! You syndicators can pick up the RSS feed if you like, and be automatically informed whenever I work up the energy to write another entry. Aren't you lucky? I know you've just been dying to see this happen. I even went to the effort of writing entry titles, which I didn't have before, just to make the feed content look better. Who loves ya?

Now I'll probably decide to teach myself HTTP and Perl just to build my own skeletal RSS aggregator. Yeah, that sounds reasonable...

Catching Up

Monday, 7 October 2002

In all the head-pounding over learning XSLT last week, I let some things slide by without comment, so I'll try to cover them all in a single post. (And remember, if you have an RSS aggregator, you can syndicate these posts via my RSS feed!)

In early November, I'll be appearing at Meet The Makers New York on a "standards mini-panel" with Jeffrey Zeldman, so I'd better get around to calling Moishe. There will also be a San Francisco Meet The Makers where my co-worker Arun will be on a panel with Tantek Çelik of Microsoft. You might be able to score a free VIP ticket to either event if you hurry (and are willing to fill out the questionnaire).

I've added more information to the upcoming events on my Speaking page, including promotional codes for events that have them. I disclose when using a code will make me money, and have been thinking about ways to turn those into community-building exercises. Maybe I'll take everyone who used my code(s) to a group dinner, assuming I can come up with a way to verify code use.

Last week, we published a CSS2.1 Quick Reference sidebar tab for Gecko-based browsers, and French translations of the CSS2 and DOM2 sidebar tabs, to the Sidebars area of the DevEdge Toolbox. I also published a technical note on fixing list-item marker size in the NS6.x series.

Over the weekend, I not only dug into more XSLT (which almost made me pound my head against a wall, again), but I wrote some Javascript bookmarklets to help manage the administration of css-discuss. It's been a while since I thought of myself as a programmer, and I certainly am no expert—but it's been good to stretch those mental muscles again, after so long. The neural paths needed for exploring and using CSS and structural markup aren't the same as those needed for programming. The sense of achievement I felt when I figured out how to do what I wanted to do was a welcome change of pace.

It's really cold in our house right now, but at least the shaking and banging of workmen dismantling our 82-year-old boiler has stopped. Kat and I are sort of sad to see the old beast go, but since it had suddenly started leaking enough carbon monoxide to form its own atmospheric system, we don't exactly regret replacing it. The replacement boiler is almost ridiculously smaller than our old boiler. I have trouble believing that it can heat the basement, let alone the whole house.

Like In a Funhouse Mirror

Tuesday, 8 October 2002

I'm a little late coming to this party, but it was worth posting anyway: Ted Rall's War Cry. It just doesn't sound quite so reasonable when we're the rhetorical target, does it?

Put Up or...

Wednesday, 9 October 2002

A random thought that came to me at 6:40am as I was pulling records for my radio show: wouldn't it be cool if we restructured our government so that any declaration of war had to be approved by a majority vote of the country's citizens, and those who voted in favor of the war were required to report for combat duty if the war referendum passed? I suppose those physically unable to fight could be required to fund another soldier's training, transportation, supplies, and funeral (if necessary).

I just wonder how many people would be willing to go to war if they knew they'd have to fight in it, or at least go broke for it—and how much more likely it would be to create a situation where we only went to war when it was felt truly necessary and just to do so.

Wired With Standards

Friday, 11 October 2002

Wired News has redesigned their site, and not just the front end, either: the really important stuff all happened behind the scenes. Using no tables to lay out the page, but instead applying CSS to XHTML, the site is a stunning example of how standards can be made to work today. They have an article with some details (and a few quotes from yours truly).

There are a few flies in this ointment, but they're fairly understandable. The pages don't always validate, in part because of third-party advertisement code (which is notoriously horrible) and in part because converting seven-plus years of pages isn't a simple task. Actually, most of their validation errors seem to involve unencoded ampersands in URLs, which ought to be easy enough to fix.

The Web Standards Project calls this a gutsy move, and I agree. A site with their kind of traffic has to make a big commitment to do something like this and stick to it. The management of Wired is to be applauded for approving this move, and the men behind the scenes deserve even more applause for their work. Look for a DevEdge article soon where we interview Douglas Bowman, the point man on the Wired redesign.

Back From Beantown

Saturday, 19 October 2002

Kat and I just got back from a week in Boston, where Molly and I presented at User Interface 7 East. The gang at User Interface Engineering put on an amazing conference, and I'm really looking forward to the next one.

As usual I'm trying to catch up with my e-mail, but in a bid to make it worse, I have a question maybe some of you can answer. If you pay for your site based on the bandwidth its traffic consumes, how much are you paying for that bandwidth? I'm not interested in the monthly charge for flat-rate plans so much as I am the per-megabyte fee for large volume accounts, or what you pay for exceeding your monthly quota. Please let me know.

Waiting For the Ebb

Monday, 21 October 2002

We all have fluctuating stress levels in our lives, and I'm currently fighting through a relative high tide. Starting a few days ago, all kinds of pressure came flowing in, and I keep waiting for the ebb. A while back, I assembled the "Fear" quadrology in iTunes, and it was the first thing I fired up this morning.

To you—is it movement, or is it action?
Is it contact, or just reaction?
And you—revolution, or just resistance?
Is it living, or just existence?

After the quadrology finishes, it's a tossup between The Prodigy and Trevor Pinnock and the English Concert. That should tell you how divergent my internal states are getting.

Nevertheless, I'm still interested in hearing about outbound traffic rates for large sites (see Saturday's entry). I've found a few plans that charge a nickel per megabyte—is that about the average? Anyone paying a lot more or less than that?

Saving Graces

Tuesday, 22 October 2002

The stress hasn't ebbed yet, but a few good people have thrown me lifelines over the past couple of days. I feel a touch better about life in general thanks to a few kinds words from those folks. "I just wanted to say thanks, and let you know that your work is much appreciated," said one. Another one wrote:

So here's a bit of my thanks and appreciation for taking [list administration] on, AND for all you do to forward the use of CSS, including the writing of books, especially your most recent!

And a while back, Jeff Cohan e-mailed me to say:

...for what it's worth, that I really appreciate not only the wisdom/expertise that comes through in your CSS-discuss and [newsgroup] posts but also the respectful tone you consistently use. (I just read your "Table design (was Re: Is there a way to "synchronize" div heights?)" response in CSS-discuss.) Folks like you (and Linda Rathgeber, whom I put in the same boat) set a great example, I think.

All of which reminds me that whatever stress I feel, whether I brought it on myself or not, and no matter how much I might sometimes want to just walk away from everything, I'm doing things that make a difference. As I wrote to a correspondent a few days back:

I figure everyone has three choices in life: they can work to effect positive change, effect negative change, or do their best not to make any change at all. I've chosen the first of the three, to the best of my ability.

I'd like to thank Jeff, Adam, Peter, Darinda, and others for reminding me that effecting change is always difficult, but that it yields rewards beyond measure.

Oh, and I ended up choosing Pinnock and the English Concert yesterday. That may have helped a little bit, too.

(X)HTML Validator Upgrade in Beta

Wednesday, 23 October 2002

The W3C has released a public beta of a major upgrade to their HTML validator, and authors are very much encouraged to try it out—I did! It adds a lot of new things to the service, including better handling of document MIME types (like application/xhtml+xml) and more. One of the validator's lead developers e-mailed me about it, and then dropped this comment in at the end of the message:

The new CSS is loosely inspired by your stuff (well, that's probably true for most CSS these days I suppose).

Pardon me while my ego starts beating its chest and howling. (And Kat's not home to keep it under control, either.)

Changes Afoot

Thursday, 24 October 2002

I've spent the last week balanced on a number of knives, it seems like, and I don't expect it to end any time soon. People dear to both Kat and me are in poor health, and we can't help but worry about them. The worry does them no good and does us harm, but what choice do we have? We steel ourselves for possible bad news and furtively hope that it will turn out all right in the end. In the deepest corners of our hearts, we wishfully imagine a future time when the sun is shining warmly, all our loved ones are sitting with us in an idealized communal space, and we shake our heads over that time when things were bad for a little while. And we realize that no matter how hard we wish, the actual future will probably turn out to be a lot less bright and comfortable than we'd like.

Refinancing a home involves a lot of paperwork, as I was reminded yesterday. Hopefully this is the last time I'll do it, because frankly, if interest rates drop far enough to make another refinance worthwhile, I'll be very concerned about state of the global economy.

For those of you thinking about syndicating my entries here, the RSS feed has moved from its old location. You can get the new feed in either RSS 0.91 or RSS 2.0, as well as access the archives, on the new Eric's Archived Thoughts page. Those of you who already syndicated me should have seen a note about the move.

BD4D Comes To Town

Friday, 25 October 2002

Hey, By Designers For Designers (BD4D) is coming to Cleveland on November 15th! The featured speaker is Derek Hess, a local guy with national exposure, and the co-sponsor of the series is New Riders, the people who published my latest book. Assuming no major upheavals in my schedule, I'll be there—how about you?

Speaking of Eric Meyer on CSS, it appears to have sold out its initial print run of almost 7,000 copies, and a sizeable second print run should be done within a few weeks. So if you're on back-order waiting for a copy, your patience should soon be rewarded.

Let It Snow...

Tuesday, 29 October 2002

As I write this, the first snow of the season is lightly falling from an overcast sky. It probably won't last more than a few minutes, and the flakes are melting as soon as they hit the ground, but it's still a welcome sight. The seasonal cycle is one reason I settled down in Cleveland; it gives the year a rhythm and variety I would sorely miss in warmer climes.

A Rescued Resource

Wednesday, 30 October 2002

Meryl Evans has recreated the missing WebNouveau list of tableless CSS site on her own Web site, and is looking for other CSS resources.

Security through obscurity never really works; when I use it, I at least know what I'm doing, and that it could bite me. I had thought any halfway informed administrator knew that same thing. Apparently, some folks still don't get it. Let's see... a company puts a file on its Web site that isn't in any way protected except in the sense that there are no links to the file, and someone else figures out the URL, which leads to advance publication of the information. That's not breaking into your site, it's being smarter than you. From Intentia's own press release: "The incident has severely damaged confidence in us as individuals and in Intentia as a company,' says Björn Algkvist, CEO of Intentia International AB." That's almost certainly true. I know I wouldn't trust my company's data to a firm that made so obvious a mistake.

Beauty Without Words

Tuesday, 5 November 2002

Kat and I just spent the last five days at Walt Disney World with my parents, sister, and her guy. The family time—a first, really, as it had very little in common with the family road trips of decades past—was a much-needed break in all the craziness (by substituting for it a different sort of craziness, I suppose) of our recent life. I got to be a personal bodyguard to the goddess Babylonia, at least for a few minutes, while at the Adventurers' Club, so that was fun. We also got to attend Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party on Halloween night itself, and the Imagineers really outdid themselves. The train station at Main Street USA looked spooky enough that someone asked if it was the Haunted Mansion.

While we were at Disney, we all went to see La Nouba for the first time, and Kat and I saw Quidam last month during its stop in Cleveland. Both productions were deeply, inexpressibly moving; the artists of Cirque du Soleil have created forms of beauty for which no words exist, and perhaps never should.

«sniffle snork wheeze»

Thursday, 7 November 2002

I'm back from a 26-hour foray to New York City and Meet The Makers, and I'm sick. So is Kat. I could feel my temperature going up on the flight home, and my throat is doing its best sandpaper impression. Of course, we're both working today, but at reduced capacity. A bit of a crisis over at css-discuss, and followup mail from yesterday's event, isn't helping me get away from the keyboard. Please do keep sending e-mail, but expect delays in reply.

It's traditional for me to curl up on the couch and watch The Stand when I get sick, so I think I'll go do that. Unless I decide to watch something else. Whatever.

A Space Between Silences

Thursday, 14 November 2002

Kat and I are no longer sick, and I'd like to thank everyone who wrote with notes of concern. Last Thursday, shortly after I wrote the previous entry, we got a call informing us that Kat's grandmother Ruth had passed away. This was not an unexpected event, but that doesn't make the loss easier to bear. So last Friday afternoon, still sick, we boarded a plane to New York City and were there until last night. Fortunately we got over our illnesses before the memorial service.

Obviously, e-mail was one of the last things on my mind while we were away, so now that I'm back and it's foremost again I'll be trying to catch up before next week's trip to Boston for Web Design World. If I don't, and you wrote me, at least now you know why I seem to be blowing you off.

On a lighter note, I'd like to share one of the best literary interpretations I've seen in quite some time.

Imagery

Friday, 15 November 2002

Every time I look at the image currently topping that topped zeldman.com for the past two weeks, I see Ruth lying in a West Palm Beach hospital room. Outside the sun shines brutally hot (by our pallid northern standards) in the last weekend of October and we know that we'll never see her again. My brother-in-law and I each promise her a dance at the next family gathering, and the lie doesn't even seem cruel to me. We are all certain that she'll be dead soon, but the stubborn spark of hope and the thought that we can offer her a pleasant illusion to obscure the looming end seems like a blessing.

Atop her 10 November entry, Molly has a quote from Frank Lloyd Wright: "The longer I live the more beautiful life becomes." I wonder if Ruth would have agreed. I wonder if I'll agree, decades from now. For now, I keep hearing the last line from the movie Seven: "Ernest Hemingway once wrote, 'The world is a fine place and worth fighting for.' I agree with the second part."

Another Passage

Friday, 15 November 2002

Early this afternoon, my paternal grandfather died unexpectedly. I don't know a lot more than that right now, but I suppose nothing more really needs to be known.

I think he would have agreed with Frank Lloyd Wright.

Homecoming

Friday, 22 November 2002

In her Web Design World keynote on Wednesday morning, Kelly Goto introduced us all to a "bored genius" and her thoroughly fascinating projects. Some of my favorites are The BullRide, RealTime / Interface to the Future, Neologues: Bang Interface, Stump, and TreeLogic.

In the past 40 days, I've been to three conferences and five cities, two of them twice. Last night I returned from Boston, and so far as I know I don't have to board another plane until 2003. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy visiting other places (although the actual traveling isn't such a thrill) and I love having the chance to see my friends and colleagues at conferences. It's just that the last six weeks were a little intense, and I'm glad to have a chance to slow down and relax at home.

I had a fascinating experience last night as we approached Cleveland. As the plane was descending through a layer of dense snow on its final approach to Hopkins, the plane was struck by lightning. Okay, I know, the bolt actually jumped from the plane to the air, but still. Thank God planes are still basically steel tubes with wings. After all, if you're going to fling yourself around the sky, you may as well do it in a great big Faraday cage.

Slice 'n' Dice

Saturday, 23 November 2002

As I work my way through an enormous backlog of e-mail, I found a message from last month telling me about a utility called pngslice. Apparently J.J. Green's girlfriend was really impressed by the Ragged Float demo but didn't want to spend her time slicing stuff up in Photoshop. So, in the manner of good boyfriends everywhere, J.J. stepped up to help out by writing a Unix utility and then released it to the world. Better than flowers, I tell you.

Ooh la la: "Faites bonne impression avec les CSS," a translation of "Going to Print." Thanks to Stephanie Booth and Samuel Latchman for helping my work get en Français!

WDW Boston Presentation Online

Monday, 25 November 2002

The HTML document I used to present at Web Design World last week is now available on the Speaking page. Note that in Opera 6+ for Windows, you can use the F11 key to turn the file into a slideshow, just as I did to present it at the conference. Note also that the styles are tuned for a 1024x768 display, but an 800x600 stylesheet is also available in the document. You can also print it out, and hopefully get more sensible line-breaking than what appeared in the conference proceedings. If not, feel free to fiddle with the print stylesheet until you do.

I also added a couple of upcoming appearances to the page, both of which are in March of 2003. There may soon be more to follow, as next year is already shaping up to be a busy one. If you're thinking about asking me to speak somewhere, now might be a good time to get in touch.

Digging Out

Wednesday, 4 December 2002

Things are relatively quiet for the first time in several weeks. Outside, there's close to a foot of powdery snow covering everything, which was fairly easy to clean off the driveway—it's light enough that I used a push-broom instead of a shovel. Inside, Kat and I have been enjoying hot cider in front of our fireplace and reconnecting with each other after all the stress of the last few weeks. Occasionally I play with Gravity, the household cat. It's a markedly more peaceful mode of living, and I'm enjoying it while I can, because it won't last.

It seems like there were things I was going to post, really cool stuff, but it all got buried while I was off at conferences, memorial services, and so forth. I did notice that Tantek has redesigned his weblog, and the new look was broken in Mozilla for a few hours. It's fixed now, but I wonder if that was due to him working around browser bugs, or just tightening up his CSS? Knowing Tantek, it could very easily be either one. Regardless, it's a very interesting design; very paperish.

I'd dig through my e-mail for more stuff, but the fireplace is softly calling my name, and I hate to disappoint anything that could theoretically burn down my house.

Catching Up

Thursday, 5 December 2002

The World Wide Web Consortium's Web site has been redesigned, although visually it looks almost the same as before. The change is that they've dropped tables-for-layout and are instead using CSS to set up the three columns and style the content. It's nice to see them trying to live up to the motto "Leading the Web to its Full Potential..." or, at the very least, finally catching up with the present.

It turns out they're using a design approach I personally dislike, where all three columns are floated left (leaving none of them fully in the normal flow), but it's not an inherently bad approach. I just prefer other ways of achieving the same effect... but, as David Powers once pointed out to me, CSS is a lot like Perl in that it often embodies the spirit of TMTOWTDI—that is, there's more than one way to do it. That may be one of the reasons I find CSS so compelling, even though its open-endedness makes it a bit harder to learn.

Moving On

Thursday, 6 December 2002

After having outgrown the resources of its current home, css-discuss is moving to a new site, hopefully for the last time. You can now find it at www.css-discuss.org (or .com), where a paltry few pages of information about the list accompany the subscribe interface. The site is really just a front end for the list, but since it was moving to its own domain anyway, I figured what the heck, let's put up some pages. I heard this whole Web thing is all the rage with the kids, you know?

This change of address would not have been possible without the incredibly generous support of evolt.org, which is donating the server space, technical support, and bandwidth needed to keep a 50-messages-a-day list going out to its 2,000-plus subscribers. I feel good about this, because evolt has long been an organization I admire, and also because they have experience running high-volume mailing lists.

The move to the new list should be complete by Monday. Hopefully I catch up with my personal e-mail shortly thereafter. I'm only about two weeks behind at the moment, although responses to mail about my latest book and css/edge are unfortunately further behind than that. That's the danger of dumping things into folders... you tend to ignore them once they're out of the Inbox. Or I do, at any rate.

Sharpening My Focus

Monday, 9 December 2002

My whole life, I've had very sharp vision both near and far, so I've never had to wear glasses or contacts. Recently I'd noticed a degradation of the acuity in my left eye, particularly when looking at intense light sources, so this morning I went to an eye doctor for the first time in two decades. She told me I need glasses—probably have needed them for years, but only now has it gotten to the point that I noticed a problem. Kat and I have to go pick out frames. I'm taking Kat along because she's the one who has to look at me, so I may as well pick frames that she finds attractive (ahem).

This is a weird moment for me. I realize the vast majority of you are wondering why this is worthy of note, because you've been wearing glasses since you were teenagers or six years old or in utero or something. But to go from vision estimated at 20/10 to needing corrective lenses is something of a shock. I suppose I always knew that my vision couldn't stay sharp my whole life, but knowing and living are of course always different. This seems like a little warning sign on the highway of life that says "Decline ahead: trucks use lower gear." It's a little teeny intimation that youth won't last, that life will eventually come shuddering to a halt.

Am I reading too much into needing glasses? Yes. That's usually how it is when I experience a change in the pattern of my life: I reflect a little more deeply on life itself, and how the seemingly permanent things never are.

On the other hand, now I'll be able to use that whole "intellectual college professor" look to do well with the ladies. Or could if I weren't married.

Releases New and Old

Tuesday, 10 December 2002

Netscape 7.01 has been released, and there's a lot more to it than a one-hundredth version number increment would indicate. The new release includes popup controls, which let you globally block unrequested popups while defining a whitelist of sites where you accept popups; and a way to make a collection of Web sites your home page, with each one opened in its own tab. If you're using Netscape, you should definitely grab this release. Netscape 7.0 had over 12 million downloads, and with these new features I'd bet the update will be even more popular.

At some point in recent weeks New Riders posted an interview with me, and I completely missed that fact until some time last night. Since it's a publisher interview I spend a little more time than usual talking about why I write books at all, but it covers other ground as well, including advice for people starting to learn CSS and what I think about tables for layout.

Under Review

Thursday, 12 December 2002

For most authors, Amazon.com is the closest we get to a stock market for book popularity. Despite their apparent randomness, tracking the rankings can become an obsession; in fact, I'm not really sure why else Junglescan exists. The reader reviews are also a source of potential obsession.

That's why I'm unaccountably pleased that Eric Meyer on CSS has just completed the "Dash to One Hundred Stars": since publication, twenty reader reviews have been posted, and every single one is five stars. I've been rooting for this to happen ever since it passed a dozen five-star reviews, actually, which sounds stupid even to me. After all, what this proves is that twenty people who use Amazon really liked the book; it's not a conferment of sainthood or anything. The book won't be a five-star experience for everyone, which is one reason I wrote some material explaining the target audience. Maybe that really did help the book get into the hands of those who would like it, and keep it away from those who wouldn't.

Other books of mine haven't fared as well. The CSS2.0 Programmer's Reference has recently picked up two one-star Amazon.com reviews, but both of them gave me an arid chuckle. So far as I can tell, in both cases a person thought they were buying some sort of tutorial or guide, and when they discovered they had something else, they decided that was my fault. One guy even looked through the book in a store, bought it, and then discovered the book was of no use to him... and then decided to go post a review on Amazon where he admitted to his mistake in the course of blasting the book. It reminded me a lot of the guy who blasted CSS:TDG for being a "light tutorial" and "not a reference at all." (Maybe they should just swap books!)

I admit to feeling a certain regret that these people spent money on my books that could have been better invested in something else, but at the same time I can't help but be amused. Caveat emptor, if you prefer, but I think of it more as, "A lack of intelligent buying on your part does not constitute an authoring failure on mine."

Anyway... one hundred stars in twenty reviews! That feels pretty darned good, no matter how irrelevant the yardstick might be. Somehow I feel like Will Smith in Men in Black: "Still, that was a pretty good shot, though."

ScatterShotBot?

Tuesday, 17 December 2002

The standards/design community has taken notice of the new Hotbot, and with its bold design statement being carried out in XHTML and CSS, it's certainly worthy of comment. Unfortunately, there's a slight problem with it. If you visit the skinning preferences page in Mozilla, Compuserve 7, or AOL for OS X, you get the following message:

To choose a new skin for HotBot, you must download a browser that supports Web standards.

Visit the same page with Netscape 7.x and you'll have no trouble at all. All of these browsers use, essentially, the same rendering engine. They have the same standards support, give or take a few bug fixes. The source of this roadblock seems to be a poorly written detection routine on the server itself.

Fortunately, this is a problem that's easy to fix. All the HotBot folks have to do, as my co-worker Arun wrote so cogently, is spot the Gecko, and here's hoping that they do so soon. If you're doing UA detection of any kind, either client or server side, then you ought to read his excellent explanation of how to detect the whole Gecko family at once, rather than client by client. It's liable to let you avoid a whole lot of headaches. You'd avoid even more if you did object detection instead of UA detection, but one thing at a time, I suppose.

It's just occurred to me to wonder if anyone's written an AmIHotOrNotBot. The search parameters in the advanced interface would no doubt be very interesting.

Remixing Fun

Sunday, 22 December 2002

Okay, so I'm late to the party as usual, but this is still pretty cool: WThremix, a contest to see who can take the new W3C home page and make it look less plain. Maybe even visually striking and exciting. Personally I think they should have added one more rule, which is that no content or structure can be altered in the restyling. There could have at least been a "restyled original markup" category. I'd think about entering, but as you can see from my private attempts (one - two - three) at the same thing back in late September, I'm not exactly a world-class visual artist. Like you hadn't guessed that by now.

Anyway, I really like the contest idea. We have a site that uses valid structural markup to hold its content, and CSS to lay it out. One of the great things about CSS is that the user can change a site's presentation to suit their own needs, whatever those may be. Similarly, it's possible to take the same markup and completely change its layout and appearance just by changing stylesheets. This is one of those really amazing things about the (X)HTML+CSS combination, and browsers are up to the task of making such things possible. Contests to restyle sites may not be exactly what the specification authors had in mind, but it's a creative application of all the promises of W3C technology.

I have been falling behind in my journal entries of late, but that's because I've been trying to correct my falling behind in e-mail. I'm getting tantalizingly close to catching up—just in time, of course, to go offline for a few days. C'est la guerre, if I got that right.

To those who celebrate them right about now, please enjoy your holidays!

Harmful Considerations

Friday, 27 December 2002

Tantek muses: "I wonder who is going to write the '"Considered Harmful" Essays Considered Harmful' essay." It's always a weird feeling when I share a brain with someone other than my wife. I almost wrote that essay a few months ago, when I'd been sent one too many "considered harmful" links, and that was going to be pretty much its exact title. Guess I'd better jump on the idea now, before someone else does it. If I had to make a guess, I'd say look for something to show up tomorrow.

Fly the really friendly skies: Hooters adds airline wings (CNN). I can't decide if this a highly creative way to bankrupt a restaurant chain or a brilliant move. I suppose if the airline is repositioned as high-end CEO charter service, with prices to match, it could be a hugely profitable business. Maybe I shouldn't have used the word "hugely" in the previous sentence. Sorry.

Speaking of odd commercial news, it would seem the Segway is a popular item (CNN) after all. I'm having trouble believing this isn't just more hype, since Amazon doesn't want to give out sales figures, and I've never really understood why anyone would want to spend a large chunk of money on a really high-tech scooter. Then again, I don't understand people spending large amounts of money on sporting-event tickets and memorabilia, so what do I know?

Well, at least somebody finally did what I've been expecting, and decided Eric Meyer on CSS was picking up too many five-star reviews. It managed to collect 23 top ratings in a row before the backlash started, so I feel pretty good about that. I won't even try rebutting the three-star review, as it makes some reasonable points. The book is not a cure-all; no book ever is, which is why I wrote the "Should You Buy This Book?" text.

Meanwhile, the United States may or may not be going to war with one or more members of its self-created "Axis of Evil." Not that I think those were countries with our best interests at the forefront of their minds—and why should they have?—but throwing around labels with a level of sophistication not too far above fourth-grade recess just doesn't seem like a good way to manage foreign policy.

I should talk. My Christmas gifts included an XBox game where you can use a giant robot to blow up everything around you, including buildings, a so-so rock album, a comic-book movie, and a truly deranged comedy cult classic. Too bad I couldn't come up with anything personally meaningful to request for the holidays this year. At least I found out that my family does in fact know me well, as I was given quite a few Eeyore-themed items. The slippers were an especially nice touch.

Over at his own journal, The Ferrett comments rather directly on the sexualization of pre-adults in the movies. I agree with him in a generic sense, although I disagree that the "Harry Potter" cast was destined to be over-eroticized. Just because an author does a remarkable job of making characters real (for certain definitions of the term "real"), that doesn't force an eroticization of the same characters on film. No, I think that's just the evolution of video storytelling over the last several decades—and it's been happening for longer than most of us realize. The Major and the Minor is a movie about a young woman posing as a 12-year-old who falls in love with a man who thinks she's, well, twelve. Of course he has no interest in her other than semi-paternal, but by the end of the movie they end up together, depsite his being engaged at the movie's outset. It stars Ginger Rogers and Ray Milland and was written by Billy Widler, so that will give you a hint regarding its age. My parents weren't even born when it was filmed. So making sexual objects out of minors is not exactly new.

No Harm, No Foul

Saturday, 28 December 2002

As promised: "Considered Harmful" Essays Considered Harmful. It should, of course, be taken with the same degree of seriousness to which all such essays are taken.

Jeffrey Zeldman seems to be very happy about something, although I can't quite work out whether his happiness is over OS X, Chimera, the ability to run the Dock and DragThing at the same time, the latter half of my journal entry from yesterday, or something else entirely.

Was that too many links for a one-sentence paragraph? I thought so too.

Extras